Climate change and migration create discussion in Finland

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
The Climate and Energy Package stirs emotions
 
The climate and energy package got a lot of attention in Finland. According to a survey conducted earlier this year, 77 percent of the Finnish citizens said that they were worried about climate change and environmental problems. 72 percent of Finns see them as issues which the EU can have a positive impact on.[1] Professor Esko Antola warned that it should be realised that there is a gap between Finns’ expectations and what the EU can actually do.[2]
 

Budget cuts in the financial crisis

Estonia
University of Tartu
 
The dominant theme of the past six months is clearly the economic crisis. The Estonian economy has been in recession since mid-2008 and the Bank of Estonia predicts a 5.5 percent decline of GDP in 2009. The gravity of the situation became evident only in December 2008 when it turned out that the accrual of budget revenues had been very low due to a very fast cool-down of both the global and Estonian economies. While the government has reserves worth about 15 billion Kroons (and has not yet had to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help, like the neighbouring Latvia), it decided to drastically cut the 2009 budget. After long debates between the coalition partners, an agreement was reached to cut the budget by eight billion Kroons, the equivalent of eight percent of 2009 spending. The cuts involve painful measures such as across-the-board reduction of 10 percent in public sector wages. The cuts will be formalised in a bill to be presented to the Estonian Parliament in February 2009. These measures are designed to help Estonia meet the Maastricht convergence criteria (now that inflation rates are down) but more importantly, to avoid bankruptcy of the Estonian state.
 

EU rules hollowing out Danish immigration legislation

Denmark
Danish Institute for International Studies
 
The European Court of Justice’s ruling in the Metock case caused severe political outcry in Denmark as it challenges Danish immigration policy. According to the ruling, with the directive on free movement as point of reference, a non-community spouse of an EU citizen can move and reside with that citizen in the EU without having previously been lawfully a resident in a member state. As a consequence, with a short stay in another member state, a Dane can now be exempted from the Danish rules like the minimum age of 24, the presence of stronger ties to Denmark than to the home country of the spouse, financial guarantees, immigration test etc. The Danish government is concerned that the directive and the ruling undermine the strict Danish immigration legislation.[1]
 
The Danish interpretation of the EU rules has until recently limited Danish citizens’ opportunities to obtain family reunification, but with the Metock ruling it has now been made clear that Danish demands were incompatible to the freedom of movement directive.[2]
 

The country’s first presidency increases the attention paid to EU affairs

Czech Republic
Institute of International Relations
 
The Czech Presidency, which began on 1 January 2009, has increased mass media interest in EU affairs in general. Both the gas crisis and the Gaza conflict received extended coverage in the Czech Republic. The gas crisis further stressed the topic of energy security, which already before this event was a priority of the Czech government. One of the main priorities of the Czech Presidency is energy, including finding solutions to both climate change and energy supply vulnerability.[1] From a Czech perspective, however, the dependence on Russian energy sources has always been more of a priority than the discussions on climate change.[2] Yet, despite the awareness of the importance of the topic, the governing coalition is split on how to provide energy to the country in the future, due to a split on the future of nuclear energy.
 

The Cyprus problem, scrapies and water

Cyprus
Cyprus Institute for Mediterranean, European and International Studies
 
The second semester of 2008 was marked by major international events, including the global financial crisis, the conflict in Georgia and the election of Barack Obama to the US Presidency. Needless to say, all these developments preoccupied the Cypriot people who had, in addition, a number of further concerns and expectations in mind.
 

Accession negotiations, fight against organized crime and uncertain economic prospects

Croatia
Institute for International Relations

Slovenia blocking Croatia’s Accession to the EU
 

The fall of the federal government after the financial crisis

Belgium
Centre d’étude de la vie politique, Université libre de Bruxelles
 
The financial crisis produced unexpected political consequences in Belgium. In the first days of the crisis, the main banks of the country witnessed cash assets problems and a period of mistrust in the population. Related to the surrounding financial events, some of them stood at the edge of bankruptcy. This was especially the case of “Fortis”, one of the largest banks of Belgium, which also had activities located in Luxemburg and the Netherlands. Due to the urgent situation, the Prime Minister Yves Leterme and the Minister of Finances took immediate measures and decided – with the support of the federal cabinet – to nationalise the Belgian parts of the bank (the other parts being acquired by, respectively, the Netherlands and Luxemburg). But in its haste, the government did not request the agreement of the stockholders of “Fortis” as a precondition for the nationalisation. In the following days, the share lost almost all its value and the disappointed stockholders decided to go to court.